Here’s my story. How I went from my early days as a young child picking strawberries and spring onions out of my parent’s gardern, finding permaculture and producing this podcast, and looking forward into the future.
I didn’t have permaculture parents. Though my father could, and still can, build many many things out of wood, he never conserved materials, except to save money, or worried about electricity. If the table saw kept running while fetching another piece of lumber, and taking the time to mark it before making the cut, so be it. My mother, an accomplished cook, was as likely to tear open a box to put dinner on the table as cook from scratch. Organic had no meaning either, and the closest notion to a farmer’s market consisted of one roadside, proclaiming “Sweet Corn, $2/dozen” for a few weeks every year.
The only thing we grew were strawberries and spring onions, of which I’d eat both fresh from the garden, dirt still on them. Thinking back to childhood memories, that wide rectangular patch seemed to stretch over a quarter of our urban lot, bigger than any one child could possibly eat all of, and I certainly tried. But seemed is the right word there, as the patch wasn’t all that big. Maybe 100 square feet.
As a child, I spent time in the outdoors, until books, video games, and ultimately computers, caught my interest as a teen. Those teenage years lead to college, where computers continued to play a major role, as I studied Computer Science. I still joke Comp. Sci. is only one part science. The other part is witchcraft, with a lot of prayer and hand waving hoping the results we get back are those we desire.
While in those late teen years, an opportunity arose to intern at a U.S. Military facility. Still before the year 2000, the Y2K bug left a feeling of panic in the air. Great quantities of work waited to fix this problem. No one seemed to know just what would happen if this problem didn’t get fixed. That fear pushed me, prodded me, and took up residence in my mind, so that I became someone involved in disaster preparedness and primitive skills. Should something happen and society did melt down, I’d be ready to step into the temperate hills of Appalachia and be OK.
Thankfully, that fantasy of a young adult quickly left, to be filled with compassion for family and friends, and a desire for a sense of community. I wanted to see everyone make it through any disaster. There had to be a better way to make it through hard times than to go at it alone or build some secure, remote compound. Not long before Y2K, I found permaculture.
The design portion of permaculture didn’t catch my attention, as before my love of computer science, I wanted to study anthropology and sociology, rather here was a system for designing permanent agriculture, to support a permanent culture, and in turn civilization could continue, even in the face of a catastrophe. The piece I’d been looking for came into focus, and the hunt for a Permaculture Design Course was on. At the time, there were not many being offered and my connection to the community, being very very cursory, turned up few chances where time and money aligned to go.
Once Y2K happened, or didn’t as is more accurate, the fear of an unknown future and desire to take up permaculture faded with them. I used the technology boom of the late 90s and early 00s to launch a career and travel down a comfortable road in my 20s, but a sneaking suspicion that something wasn’t quite right with the path continued. Permaculture kept cropping up in my reading and interest. I’d keep looking for a PDC from time to time, but continued to hit the challenge of having either the time or the money to go.
Fast forward a decade. I’m married, in my early 30s, with children. Off and on for 13 years I’ve looked for a PDC. On a whim, I looked again, and found one. It’s being taught about an hour a way. On weekends only. Over 7 months. Finally! A class I can take! Phone calls happen. I talk to one of the teachers, Dillon. The deadline isn’t too far away. I talk to my wife. Back and forth. We straighten things out. I’m finally taking a PDC!
The course went well. I meet a great group of people dedicated to building a better world with permaculture, each in their own way. We graduate, and I start this show, but then some rough time came.
I’ve mentioned before that I encountered several failures to launch before getting to where I am today. That began in late 2010 and early 2011, as I wanted to start my own permaculture design business. Given the place that I’m at, with a family and children, I needed to make sure everything was above board and properly covered, legally. Here’s where I found out, over several months, that to carry the proper insurance and hire a law firm, because of the non-standard nature of permaculture as so considered by the state of Pennsylvania, would be prohibitively expensive for someone starting out. Not too expensive, I don’t think, for an already established business, but getting off the ground this was at the time and insurmountable hurdle.
Shelving the idea of professional design in my current situation, I used the last of my seed money to go to Oregon and take a Teacher Training with Jude Hobbs, Andrew Millison, and Rico Zook. There I realized that technology is a part of who I am, and the podcast was reaching people. Jude went so far as to play a clip while we were eating dinner. She had listened to some shows.
Returning from a great week in the green hills of Oregon, I took nearly a year off to focus on matters important to my family and figure out the next step.
Honestly, returning to the show was a bit of a fluke, but as with so much of what happened on my road to here, the idea of working with this material never left me. One day while sitting down to review website stats for my wife’s site, I decided to check the permaculture podcast and was surprised to see that more people subscribed to the now inactive show than when I first started. The interest was still there. The show came back online with my first new interview speaking to Dillon Cruz, and brought me back to permaculture full time. Well, as full time as my schedule allows. This same event reignited my desire to be a better educator, and improve my ability to communicate these ideas, by going on to graduate school, so that permaculture and sustainability have another credentialed voice, to aid those who work every day to make such great changed in the world.
And so I can help anyone of you who are interested, have a chance to follow your permaculture path wherever it may lead, without having to walk this 15 year long, convoluted road I’ve been on. I don’t know how much time I can save you, but I hope it’s substantial. And, for those of you on this road with me already, realize how long it took me to get here, even with a path that started nearly half my life ago.
From here, where do we go? Well, for me, I’ll continue to work on those credentials and share information about permaculture with the world via the podcast, freely. My desire to keep the show and main website ad and commercial free remain. I depend on donation from listeners to keep things running and make investments in equipment, or to buy skype credits to call internationally. If you’d like to contribute, go to thepermaculturepodcast.com/support to find out how. Also, the show is expanding into an on-line PDC, and I’m putting together the resources to shoot video for release on YouTube.
That’s me. For you, there’s a couple of places to start, depending on where you are and what you want to do.
If you are practicing permaculture in your backyard, you don’t need to take a PDC. There are great books and on-line videos on the subject to get you going, and plenty of evening, one day, and weekend seminars to get you more information. However, if you have the time and money to go to a PDC, I highly recommend it. The camaraderie and connections go a long way towards having people you can bounce ideas off of. In the meantime, always feel free to reach out to me and I’ll do what I can to help you, to certain degrees.
If you want to practice permaculture design professionally, before you go off to a PDC or start down that road, check into what, if any, legal requirements you have in your area, and what the road might be to meet those needs. You may find additional schooling is well served to do this, or that you don’t want to design after all. Otherwise, and once you check that out, get yourself to a PDC! This course is your “gateway” to the world of permaculture. There are more options available now than ever, including several on-line, of which I’ll be opening one up this summer. But that’s not meant as a plug for my work alone. Plenty of talented people work every day to teach permaculture and you’ll be well served by most. If in doubt, send me an email with a listing and I’ll give you an idea of what to consider before making a decision.
If you want to teach this material professionally, once you get a PDC, go to a Teacher Training. This is the next “gateway” on the path. You’ll learn a lot about how to teach effectively in the informal environment, how to run workshops, and many of the other business development pieces you need to be effective. The transparency of my teacher training teachers helped to clear up many questions about permaculture education, and what’s necessary to put yourself out in the world. However, once you have a PDC and Teacher Training under your belt, don’t just jump in with both feet. Take your time, get some more experience, and observe other classes. You’ll save yourself time and energy in the long run.
From there, with your experiences, what you do with permaculture is your choice. Have a Masters in Business Administration and want to do green business consulting with a permaculture focus? Go for it. Have a science background and want to research the efficacy of permaculture techniques in field trials? Go for it? Want to use your communications background to help people express their local needs in a sustainable way? Go for it! Are you a great writer who wants to create the next revision of the Designers’ Manual? Go for it! But only after contacting Tigari to find out what that process would be.
There’s room for many different paths under the permaculture umbrella. Whatever you choose to do, find your niche, where you fit in this big picture, and go for it. Depending on your situation, that may mean a slow climb down on the other side of the precipice, but for others you may be able to leap and build your wings on the way down.
Wherever you go and however you get there, I will be here as long as possible to help you on your journey.
Email: show [at] thepermaculturepodcast [dot] com